Much of our writing here has to do with the task of passing Selection and becoming a member of our Special Operations community, the best brotherhood there is. And in our writings we will frequently use the much-used but very true catchphrases that we all use in Special Operations like “Never Quit”, and my personal favorite, “Embrace the Suck.”
And after recent events here at home during the past few weeks, it put several things into perspective. Recent construction in a couple of parts of town has upset the balance of wildlife in our area. I live in a bucolic little town in Central Massachusetts, that borders on the urban setting of Worcester, the 2nd largest city in the state.
In less than two minutes you can go from deep woods in the country to a very urban setting. We have an abundance of wildlife that frequently comes into contact with people due to the human population encroaching on their land. One of the most unwelcome of guests has been coyotes. And they’re getting increasingly bolder as time moves on and they are frequently seen now in neighborhoods, rather than on the edge of them. They are losing their fear of man and it is strictly a matter of time when not if, an encounter with man takes place.
I have had brushes with them… at a distance several times, but lately those encounters have been getting closer. A few weeks ago, after a snowstorm, my dog decided that at 2:45 a.m. was when she needed to go “drop a deuce”. I walked her in the woods, as being a girl she won’t go in the yard. With the snow on the ground and a bright moonlit night, visibility was excellent. As we stood next to a trail about 100 yards from our house, I saw two figures at the top of a hill about 50 yards away. The wind was blowing in their direction and they immediately picked up on us. I could see right away what they were.
The bigger one stared and then took a step down the hill as if to come and check us out. At the time the only thing I had was a Maglite which has the power of a searchlight. Thanks to the Crate Club. I pulled the lens to make it a narrower beam and shined it right in his eyes. He stopped short and then the two of them beat it back off the trail and into the woods.
Sunday is our normal ruck day for our PT Prep pieces and I was out just before five to get a ruck in before our normal Sunday stuff takes over. There is still quite a bit of snow left on the trail, and after a melt on Thursday and Friday, the snow refroze into a hard shell. Walking on the trail, I was making more noise than a platoon of Hondo recruits made in the dark so many moons ago.
The bright moon was setting on the horizon but still cast a really good glow, especially off the frozen snow on the ground. And once again on the trail near my home were a pack of coyotes, far enough away to not be an immediate danger but close enough to stop you short in your tracks. I could see three, which means there were a few more.
Rather than turn and run, which may incite them, I froze and waited to see what they intended to do. I still had my trusty mini-Maglite, but in the right pocket was a .380, hardly a hand cannon, but I could give Wiley Coyote seven reasons to rethink things. After a few seconds, they scampered off and it seemed like a good idea to change direction and take the ruck march another way today. Which got me to think about Travis Kauffman.
Who is Travis Kauffman you say? He’s the 31-year old guy who was jogging in the mountains in Ft. Collins, Colorado when he was attacked by a mountain lion and choked it to death trying to defend himself. And on the way home, I thought about my not-so-close encounter, which in no way compares to what he went thru and thought, “how many people would have panicked and ended up as a statistic rather than fight their way thru what he went thru.”
Kauffman was out for a run on a scenic trail in the Fort Collins mountain area on Feb. 4 when his encounter happened. He said he heard a rustling sound in the woods nearby and turned to see the mountain lion only 10 feet away.
After the big cat launched itself at Kauffman, he said he and the lion fell down the side of a slope. “From there, it was just a wrestling match,” he said to NBC News in an interview.
Knowing he had to pin its legs or he’d be shredded, Kauffman picked up sticks trying to jab the cat in the throat, but they snapped. He then tried bashing its head with a rock to no avail. Finally, “I stepped on its neck and then was eventually able to suffocate it,” he said.
“It was just pure adrenaline,” Kauffman added. “There was a certain point where I just kind of imagined being stuck on this hillside and just having a cat gnaw at me, which is a pretty creepy way to go.” Indeed.
He later made it back down the mountain, where other hikers were able to give him a lift to the hospital where he received 20 stitches. He was lucky but kept his head about him. He’d get my vote in an absoute second.
This is a prime example of “Never Quit” despite the odds being in favor of the cat. And this takes “Embracing the Suck” to the nth level. This is more embracing life and choosing not to die rather than panicking and losing everything.
Honestly, the majority of the people you’d meet on the street, probably wouldn’t have survived such an encounter. That isn’t an indictment on them, simply a fact. Kauffman kept his head about him in a crisis life or death situation and lived to tell the tale. That is the kind of stuff we should all strive to attain. And that is the type of thinking that many of you someday will face. Kauffman was able to think and act clearly with a wild animal trying to kill it. There’s a lot of wild animals out there in the world, both human and other, that will want to kill you. Don’t be a statistic. Be like Kauffman.
Photo of Mountain Lion in Glacier National Park: Wikipedia